Wu Jiaying, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
The night wind billows the fine yellow sands; a lone wolf slinks across the wilds. Set in author Chu Hsi-ning’s native Shandong province, “Wolf” looks at northern Chinese social mores through the lens of rural customs and village talk. The story was first published in the Central Daily News supplement in July 1961, and later included in Wolf, an eponymous short-story collection. The good and evil sides of human nature and individual desires play an important part in Chu’s works. Concisely structured and carefully plotted, “Wolf” is particularly profound, the author’s meticulous literary craftsmanship imbuing the story with a deep and moving spirit of compassion.
Set in a northern Chinese farming village, and seen through the eyes of a naïve young orphan, “Wolf” depicts multilayered oppositions – good vs. evil, human nature vs. animal nature, wolf vs. sheep, and the conflicts that arise among the characters in the story. “Ersau” – “second daughter-in law” of the Ou family – is a sexual voracious woman 1 of loose morals, shrewd and fierce. Married to a weakling who cannot get her pregnant, Ersau has frequent assignations with a hired hand, hoping to be impregnated. “Big Spool,” the handyman, is a strapping fellow with a hero’s temperament: bold and resolute, magnanimous and wise, strong and sturdy, good and upright. He is also a skilled wolf hunter.
Big Spool and Ersau are the story’s central characters. The plot interweaves descriptions of a wolf hunt with depictions of Ersau’s sexual liaisons with the hunter, likening the adulterous woman to a cunning wolf. For example, on the night that Big Spool traps and kills a she-wolf, he refuses Ersau’s advances, saying to himself: “I’m not an animal!” Thus, he staunchly defends his human dignity, distancing himself from Ersau’s brutish lust.
In the end Big Spool saves Ersau’s honor by leaving the Ou family without explanation. Ersau repents her behavior, once again embracing the orphaned child who narrates the story, thus reclaiming her motherly nature. Big Spool is the embodiment of the Confucian ethic of forgiveness. This forgiveness is not compromise or indulgence, but sympathy for and understanding of lust-ridden human nature; hence, the belief that people can reform if given the opportunity to do so. Chu Hsi-ning accurately captures both the light and darkness in the depths of the human soul – when the temptation to sin arises, people may be too weak to resist; but if they fix their gaze on the faint light in their hearts, they can dispel evil and find the key to love and tolerance.
By exploring his characters’ errant ways and troubled lives, Chu Hsi-ning uncovers the unadorned affection in the human spirit, coloring his work with a Confucian concern for the human condition. Chu was also deeply influenced by Christianity, and the concept of religious salvation – practiced in nativist settings – is the core spirit that informs all his fiction. The human heart is thus able to transcend its weaknesses, and benevolence and harmony will resist – and ultimately redeem – this complex and ever-changing world.
1Ersau is characterized as “a wolf at thirty” (三十如狼), a reference to a Chinese saying which has it that women shed their girlish inhibitions by the age of thirty, whereupon they become bold and uninhibited in seeking sexual fulfillment.
Zhu Xining (1927-1998) is the penname of Zhu Qinghai, a native of Linqu County in China’s Shandong province. Zhu began writing in 1947, publishing his first short story, “Westernized,” in Nanjing’s Central Daily News supplement. In the spring of 1949, in the midst of the Chinese civil war, General Sun Liren recruited Zhu, who then came to Taiwan with Nationalist forces. Like Sima Zhongyuan, Zhu was a soldier-writer. In 1959 he moved his family to Taipei and began what was to be the peak of his writing career.
In the early 1960s Zhu’s fiction dealt mainly with Chinese nativist subject matter; representative works from the period are Rust Solution (1963), Wolf (1963) and Dawn Breaks (1965). Of these, Rust Solution was Zhu’s greatest artistic achievement, a short-story collection that reflected on the root causes of the Chinese people’s psychic malaise: ignorance, superstition, contrariness, and inborn impulsiveness. Inheriting Lu Xun and Zhang’s Ailing’s symbolist techniques, Zhu set cold, gloomy atmospheres off against protagonists’ hot-blooded natures, creating fiction of great tension and intense contrast.
With the exception of Drought Demon (1969), an extension of earlier nativist works’ critical style, Zhu’s mid-1960’s writing dealt mainly with Taiwan subject matter, reflecting on life’s predicaments and bewilderments. In contrast to his earlier work, Zhu now focused on psychological and emotional development. Notable works from this period are the novels Cat, Painting a Dream, and Notes on the 823 Artillery Bombardment. The short stories “The Metallurgist,” “What Time Is It,” and “Snake” were experimental works similar to those produced by the French nouveau roman school.
Zhu Xining retired from military service in 1972 and began writing fulltime. To write the Biography of Zhang Ailing he made the acquaintance of Hu Lancheng. In 1976 the Chinese Culture Academy (today’s Chinese Culture University) sacked Hu on charges that he had collaborated with the Japanese puppet government in Nanjing during WWII. Zhu Xining invited Hu into his home to lecture for half a year, and together they founded the 3-3 Journal, propagating “Chinese rites and music.” In 1979 they founded the 3-3 Bookstore Publishing Company, using literature to spread Christian beliefs.
In later works such as Tea Country (1984) and Cowherd Constellation (1987) Zhu employed third-person omniscient narration to directly convey his philosophy of life and edify readers. Written in the same period, the posthumously published The Hua Taiping Family (2002) is the crowning achievement of the Zhu’s writing career, a product of the final twenty years of his life. Written as a record of social customs in the author’s native Shandong province, the book transforms the beautiful past into pearls of anecdotal wisdom, presenting Zhu Xining’s philosophy of living. Those parts of the book dealing with Christian doctrine reflect Zhu’s father’s method of integrating elements of Chinese culture into the the religion as a means of improving it. As for “Chinese culture,” Hu Lancheng’s “theory of Chinese rites and music” served as blueprint, a concept that differs somewhat from traditional interpretations.
The Zhu family is renowned in Taiwanese literary circles; Zhu’s wife Liu Musha is a translator of Japanese literature, and his daughters Zhu Tianwen and Zhu Tianxian are important contemporary writers.
This excerpt is taken from the Encyclopedia of Taiwan; for the entire Chinese article, please visit: http://nrch.culture.tw/twpedia.aspx?id=4599
|Anthology：||An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature—Taiwan: 1949-1974 , Vol. 2. Short Stories.（《中國現代文學選集》Vol.2）|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||National Institute for Compilation and Translation（國立編譯館）|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.sudu.cc/front/bin/home.phtml|
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